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A note from Vincent Archer

I'm posting an initial slew of finished chapters so you have a good idea of the way the story goes. Of course, some things will not be what you expect, but if you knew everything about how the story unfolds before it did... it wouldn't be interesting, would it?

This is a mechanic chapter - light on action, heavy on infodump. I'll be lighter on infodumps if possible.

(Y6, July 7th)

 

The first thing that Vantegaard did when the world turned from nothingness to greenness was to puke most of the contents of his stomach.

He had eaten very, very lightly because that was the expected result of the first entrance into Northworld. Returning to Earth or coming back wouldn’t be traumatic, but the fact that he had been probably remade from the ground up to fit the expanses of Northworld was the accepted cause of the shock.

After finishing retching one last time, he looked around him.

The place he found himself was a forest. A lightly packed thicket of trees, extending in all directions. There were a few bird noises, but nothing stronger. He was all alone. Time to take stock in his situation.

 

Vantegaard

 

Health: 613/618 (recovers 144/day)

Stamina: 131/624 (recovers 2.1/s)

 

Reasoning: 29

Dexterity: 26

Resilience: 24

Strength: 21

Fortitude: 21

Reflexes: 19

Perception: 17

Presence: 14

Intuition: 13 (0%)

 

Absolute Meditation 22

Sense the Leylines 14 (1%)

Door Knocker 11

Sure Strike 7

Evaluate Minerals 6

Sprinting 5

Bladed Parry 5

Night Sense 4

Sculpting 3

--unknown--

Level: 1 – 1%

Unused points: 0

 

The Interface had reshuffled itself into the configuration that would be its default until Vantegaard left Northworld to become Jasper Hill again. Stats and skills were sorted, the vitals were shown, and leveling was available.

The surprise was that the Sense the Leylines had already gained experience. Vantegaard assumed he’d somehow used the skill while he was busy spilling his guts on the forest floor…

 

Sense the Leylines

Tier 1 Intuition

Passive, Triggered

The power of the earth courses within the land, and those attuned to it can find its course and reap its essence.

 

Proximity to a Leyline will fuel a mental sense of direction, power, and at higher levels translate into a mental map of the lines’ interaction. Leylines come in lesser, standard, greater and world categories; the greater a Leyline, the further away it can be discerned.

 

Current max range: 14/21/28/35 km.

Skill level 14 (base 1)

Advancement: 1%

Located: Lesser Leyline at 90%+ of max range.

 

Ah, of course. It was a passive skill, always available, and it was automatically activated based on circumstances. And apparently, there was a lesser leyline a couple of hours walk away.

At least, that meant he had an objective of sorts. He hadn’t popped close to a settlement, and there were no visible signs of human presence, so he’d have to walk around until he found a location from which he could figure out if he was in the known sectors or a pioneer a thousand kilometers from anything civilized.

 

His other skills hadn’t gained experience, and that was what a serious newbie should be focusing on. He looked around and found a few pieces of rock.

 

Evaluate Minerals

Tier 5 Reasoning

Active

Minerals are the bones of the world; gemstones its ornaments. Knowing them is a boon.

 

Examination of a rock or gemstone will yield insight about its nature, properties and/or origins.

 

Appraisal max level: 20/10/5 (common, rare, magical)

Skill level 6 (base 1)

Advancement: 5%

Held: Piece of Shale (lvl 5), common mineral (no special properties discernible)

 

Vantegaard kept looking, but the only rocks around were more shale. Well, except for a

       Small piece of Silex (lvl 11), common mineral (higher sharpness)

He slipped the silex in his backpack. Sometimes, you could make interesting items out of mundane stuff. If he found the right person, maybe he’ll be able to trade it for something.

He tried to shape a bit of the soil into some spire, but that failed to get anything into Sculpting. That one skill might be slightly harder to raise. He skipped it for now.

Sprinting yielded a tiny result.

 

Sprinting

Tier 5 Resilience

Action

Running is good. Running fast is better, if more exhausting.

 

You can produce a short burst of running, but you can only sustain it over a limited range based on skill. Your resilience will help to recover faster.

 

Distance: 5 m

Speed: +125%

Recover: 268s

Skill level 5 (base 1)

Advancement: 5%

 

That one was frustrating. Jasper had been jogging to keep in shape, as he hated gyms. If he did not unlock the Sprinting skill, he could theoretically “sprint” over any distance, until he had to stop. Having the skill meant instead that he was slightly faster than he would be otherwise, but he could sprint a pitiful 5m. As the skill rose, it would be better, but until then…

Despite that, it was a good skill to have. Essentially, every 5mn, he’d sprint a bit and would gain skill and Resilience steadily. All of the skill experience contributed to his level as well as the stat.

There were no doors around to knock, the sun’s oblique rays suggested either mid-morning or mid-afternoon, so no night time for a while and the combat skills would require an enemy – or at least a practice dummy – to use against.

Which left looking at the last skill which had been the big Setup prize.

 

Absolute Meditation

Tier 1 Fortitude

Action

You can enter a state of meditation in any circumstances, clearing your mind and regenerating your powers.

 

Mind affecting effects clear at an accelerated rate while you are meditating. Mental, magical and physical energies recharge at an accelerated rate while you are meditating. Meditation is interrupted by any action taken and has a chance to break upon being the target of an ability.

 

Maximum meditation period: 22s

Cooldown: 481s

Vitals recovery: 5.5/s

Mind debuff recovery: -5.5s per second

Interrupt chance: 90%

Skill level 22 (base 1)

Advancement: 0%

 

So, Absolute Meditation worked on every form of magical ability, which was expected since it was tier 1. Also, it would clear mental debuffs by making them drop faster… and it would also work on the fly rather than requiring Vantegaard to sit still. If he remembered right, Boundless Meditation purged poisons and disease and protected the caster from attack during its duration. Different, but equally powerful.

For now, it looked like he’d be reliant on Sprinting whenever possible, and maybe getting lucky with rocks, while he was trying to get close to the leyline.

Vantegaard pulled and added to his belt a commando knife and sheath that he’d picked for the trip, adjusted his backpack straps, and stretched a bit. Time to hike.

 

After half an hour, he had gotten a slightly better sense of the leyline when he heard a small noise to the side. He slowly turned and stopped. To his left, at a dozen meters, was a kind of grey wolf.

Cellphones didn’t work on Northworld, and even old-style chemical photo cameras failed. There were people with artistic talent bringing good drawings of the local fauna, which you found out all over the forums. So, the wolf-analog there looked a lot like a Canis Curiosus, so-called because of its propensity to follow and watch humans even when he or she wasn’t hunting.

Curiosus was a common predator, but not overly dangerous. Newbies could be dropped in the wilderness, but they were seldom dropped in a really dangerous area. That, or nobody had ever heard of them afterward, that is. People with the proper evaluation skills got them between rank 3 for the young ones to 8 for veterans.

On Earth, Jasper would have never tried to tangle with a wild wolf. That was far too dangerous, and if you got mangled, well, you’d be crippled for life. But Northworld’s rules were slanted in favor of humans. The skills which governed combat gave them a heavy advantage, and you recovered from wounds completely relatively quickly.

 

Curiosus was still looking at Vantegaard, seemingly asking “what you doing here, noob?”. Vantegaard drew slowly his knife. The wolf, sensing the hostility, started to growl.

On Earth, a wolf would be very cautious. But Northworld was empty. There were ruins, abandoned towns and cities, and everything else, but no people. Amateur archeologists had sifted everywhere, dug up graves and found not even a buried skeleton – unless it was of the animated kind. And if there had been a civilization, well, the local wildlife had lost its fear of humans a long time ago.

 

Vantegaard sprinted toward the Curiosus. The wolf lunged, biting. White teeth raked his hand while Vantegaard tried to slice. The wolf tried jumping and Vantegaard backpedaled. A slight flurry of knife and bites ensued, where he tried to place his blade between him and the biting teeth and slicing claws.

At last, the wolf realized that this upright thing was too much for him to handle and tried dodging, but it was already too late, and Vantegaard sliced one last time, killing the beast.

With that done, he pulled his Interface to check on the results.

 

Vantegaard

 

↑ Health: 523/621 (recovers 144/day)

↑ Stamina: 501/628 (recovers 2.1/s)

 

↑ Reasoning: 29 (4%)

↑ Dexterity: 26 (8%)

↑ Resilience: 24 (5%)

↑ Strength: 21

↑ Fortitude: 21

↑ Reflexes: 19 (1%)

↑ Perception: 17

↑ Presence: 14

↑ Intuition: 13 (1%)

 

↑ Absolute Meditation 22

↑ Sense the Leylines 14 (3%)

↑ Door Knocker 11

↑ Sure Strike 7 (44%)

↑ Evaluate Minerals 6 (29%)

↑ Sprinting 5 (35%)

↑ Bladed Parry 5 (8%)

↑ Night Sense 4

↑ Sculpting 3

↑ --unknown--

Level: 2 – 24%

Unused points: 1

 

He’d sustained some damage, and exhausted a bit of his stamina, but nothing too dangerous. If he fought a lot, it would become a problem. People used healing magics, potions or bandages to recover their health, but he only had the latter, and Earth-made bandages were a piss poor substitute for Northworld ones.

 

But the fight had given him good skill experience. One strike had obviously hit the target, even if he had not managed to parry any attacks.

The prize was that he had been pushed to level 2. Along with one level, he’d gotten a free point, which he could spend at will.

That’s where it became very complicated. Everything could be increased with free points. Vitals, stats, skills, everything. Of course, there was a catch. You could spend a point to increase by 1 (or, for vitals, by 12), but after that, the second increase would cost 2pts. Then the next would be 3. And so on.

 

So the first possibility was to increase vitals. But the fact was, vitals would increase on their own with levels and stats. It was widely considered that increasing one’s vitals was the last resort, once everything useful started costing too much.

The next choice was to increase one of the skills. That was useful in certain circumstances. Mainly, trying to kickstart a skill to a useful level where you could use it regularly with success and start gaining meaningful experience. The pitiful Sculpt might be a candidate for this. But, again, once better options had been exhausted.

The most common choice was to increase a stat. Increasing a stat immediately reflected on skills that used it, potentially on vitals, and all kinds of things that synergized with it. Also, typically, stats grew more slowly than skills.

But the big prize, at least at the beginning, lay in the Unknown skill listed on the Interface. You could invest there, and acquire a new skill. Of course, the cost of acquiring new skills grew with each use, like everything else, but each new skill could potentially yield back additional experience, synergize with other skills to inflate a stat faster, etc. In general, new skills would match what you did most previously, so there were strategies to prepare yourself for your next skill.

The commonly accepted wisdom was to spend your points on new skills until you had around 12-15 new ones, at level 100 or so. That was the point where you got more and more skills that didn’t add anything to your build, whatever it was, and where the points invested were wasted. You could still run the “lottery”, but it wasn’t such a good choice anymore unless you hadn’t a real build yet.

 

Jab

Tier 5 Strength

Action

A forceful strike, with one’s bladed weapon.

 

Jabs cost more stamina than normal strikes but do far more damage. Jabs can be alternated with other strikes until skill 100 when they can be chained.

 

Stamina cost: 63

Additional damage: 10%

Skill level 5 (base 1)

Advancement: 0%

 

Another blade attack. More fuel for a swordsman build… or the potential tank-mage hybrid build if he could turn his magical base into real ones. The stamina drain would be annoying, but…

On impulse, Vantegaard tried to meditate. And to his surprise, the “physical energies” indicated in the skill description applied to his stamina. He failed to get a full cycle of meditation, as he was already close to his maximum. But, in other circumstances, it would be very useful indeed.

 

Vantegaard didn’t bother trying to skin the Curiosus corpse. He pried the canines though. Those, he knew, were useful for some knickknacks. For now, the trail beckoned.

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A note from Vincent Archer

I'll drop the "up arrow" signs on the Interface soon, they're quickly cumbersome. Each up arrow tells you that you have enough points to spend on that, which is almost always the case.


About the author

Vincent Archer

  • France

Bio: Vincent Archer wrote his first story around age 11. On a mechanical typewriter, with carbon paper for a mimeograph to distribute in class. His teacher knew enough to make vague encouraging noises rather than really tell him what she thought. He wrote more stories afterward, but Time has thankfully managed to erase every trace of them.

Now that his career has settled in a mix of routine and insanity and that he's figured out that herding cats would probably be easier, he's finally started to write stories again on a media rather than inside his brain. Some of those are even potentially good enough to show to other people.

Silvergates is his first attempt to finish one rather than admit defeat against the usual writer's block.

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